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Ralph Ellison was born in Oklahoma. From 1933 to 1936 he was educated as a musician at Tuskegee Institute. During that time he traveled to New York and visited Richard Wright, which led him to the first attempts to write fiction. Since that time he became a well-known critic; his articles, reviews and short stories have been published in many national magazines. He won the National Book Award and the Russwurn Award for the Invisible Man. He has taught in many universities such as Bard College (1961), University of Chicago, Rutgers University (1962-1964), and New York University (1970-1980.) He lectured at Library of Congress and University of California. Also he is an author of the Shadow and Act.
Reading through the book one can realize that the title of the Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man refers to the personality and insignificance of the main character. It is a realization of what Invisible Man had been all along during his life. He had been nobody. He was only useful to the people around him to the extent that he was able to do what he was ordered. The Brotherhood didn't care for him as an individual, he was only noticed when he was needed. The Invisible Man mistakenly led himself to believe that it is possible to find meaning in his life by believing in Brotherhood's ideology. "The Hero's invisibility is not the matter of being seen, but a refusal to run the risk of his own humanity, which involves guilt. He must assert and achieve his own humanity."
"I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe…. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me." In the opening scene of The Invisible Man tells the reader about his physical state, which directly refers to his personality and psychological state as well. He explains to the reader his character, his skepticism toward the world that surrounds him. As a narrator of the book he sets the stage for the following chapters, which describe his life. "And so it is with me. Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well; and to be unaware of one's form is to live a death. I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until I discovered I my invisibility." An unfullfilled dream of importance and finding meaning of life can leave a person with a sense of being invisible.
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Few of the primary conflicts of the novel are about a Black man who goes through life with a dream of becoming somebody important, somebody that would matter to others. No matter how cruel are the lessons of life, he is still blinded by his naïve character. He does not realize that he is nobody. His first experience is the Battle Royal. He thinks that his talents and abilities would somehow separate him from the others, when in reality he just gets the same treatment as others. He doesn't recognize the difference between what he had expected and what he got. The reward justifies everything that has been done.
One of the most shocking and unforgetful moments in the book is the Battle Royal. The cruelness of what had been done to these people, merely for the entertainment of the few important white men, can be appaulingfor the reader. It's hard if not impossible to understand the morality of earning a living by torturing others. But what is more obscure is the reaction of the Invisible Man to the surrounding situation. Clearly at the time he has a misunderstanding of life and misinterpretation of events taround him. During the fight he was not thinking about how to get out alive before it was too late, but he thinks about his speech and whether people would "judge truly his ability." Just like invisibility is the authors excuse for insignificance, forgetting the Battle Royal is a way to cope with a traumatic experience. He prefers simply to forget what happened to him.
Ralph Emerson's book describes one's man search for his identity. An unsuccessful search, in view of the conclusion that he comes to. Everyone has an identity; failure to find one or illusion of invisibility is just a matter of perception.